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Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Who Ya Gonna Call?

Jul. 29, 2010
Categorized in: Foreclosures/Short Sales

We had a shock recently when a home in our neighborhood here in Amissville went up for sale as a foreclosure. It's not all that common around here and the price was jaw-droppingly low.

South Poes Road

Given that we have almost identically sized acreages I needed to know more. Was the number I carry around in my head on what our home is worth way off?

So, I went to take a look.

The moral of this story is, you should do the same thing. Clients worry that they're bothering their real estate agent if they ask to go see a house for sale in the neighborhood. Trust me, if your agent's worth a dime they're going to be happy to get that call. Some day you may want to sell your home and the more educated you are about the local market the easier those conversations are going to be for your agent.

I'd argue all of my clients ought to be calling me at least once a year to see something for sale in the neighborhood.

And, how did it work out for us? The house has no central air and needs lots of work. I don't think that number in my head is wildly crazy. And, apparently the market thinks that house was priced pretty competitively as well since there were multiple offers almost immediately.

I'm feeling a lot calmer now!

Switching to Rappahannock Electric

May. 30, 2010
Categorized in: Miscellaneous

Our electricity provider switched June 1st, from Allegheny Power to Rappahannock Electric Cooperative. We live in Amissville, but this is happening to quite a few people in these parts.

If you're one of those people you should have received a notice from Rappahannock Electric by now. If the cooperative structure is new to you, here's what REC says on their website:

 

So, this is going to be a little different. You'll likely not notice much difference in rates, initially. At least according to REC's web site. But their rates are higher than those of Allegheny. And, eventually we will all be moved up to those higher rates. That might make this an excellent time to look at ways to increase your energy efficiency before those higher bills hit. (And while there are tax incentives to use!)

You should also have received a package from Rappahannock Electric in the mail this week that includes an application for membership. I don't know about you, but that's definitely new to me. Their web site says that your electricity will NOT be turned off if you do not complete the application. They'd like you to, but it is not a requirement.

I had no complaints with Allegheny, but have no reason to oppose the switch to Rappahannock either. Come the next big ice/snow storm we'll all have a better idea of how good they are. Let's hope it's a long, long time before we know!

 

 

Cooperatives are local, customer-owned, democratically controlled, not-for-profit utilities. Cooperatives exist for only one reason – to serve. Anyone who receives service from the cooperative becomes a member and has an ownership interest in the cooperative. At the end of each fiscal year after all expenses are paid, any excess revenue is assigned to the members based on their patronage with the cooperative. As financial conditions allow, a portion of those assignments are retired and returned directly to the members.

Upcoming Local Food Events

Apr. 9, 2010
Categorized in: Eating Local

Spring is here and that means an abundance of local foods are beginning to be available. Yippee!

The Local Flavor Farm Buyers Club is hosting a Meet Your Farmer Event tomorrow, April 10th at 14828 Lee Highway in Amissville. Stop by between 2 and 6 p.m. and enjoy tastings from:

  • 100% Grass-fed beef from Mount Vernon Farm in Sperryville
  • Pork & Lamb Sausages from Blue Ridge Meats in Front Royal
  • 100% Grass-fed, raw cheese (aged 12 - 24 months) from Oak Spring Dairy in Upperville
  • Fresh Salsas & Mustards from the Remington Pepper Company in Remington
  • Fresh, locally-roasted Fair Trade Coffee from Central Coffee Roasters in Sperryville
  • Tasty Chutneys from Virginia Chutney Company in Washington, VA
  • ...and much more!

There will also be wine tastings from Gadino Cellars.

As if that wasn't enough excitement, a week from today Great Harvest Bread Co. opens their doors in downtown Warrenton next Friday, April 16th. Become a fan on Facebook and watch their progress!

Happy Eating!

Broadband Needs

Mar. 28, 2010
Categorized in: Local News

There's been a lot of talk in these parts for quite awhile about the lack of broadband once you get outside the towns. Many of you reading this blog are still in very rural areas where broadband simply is not available.

Broadband is critical for economic development now and in the future. Rappahannock County, in particular, has a serious problem in this area.

The FCC recently came out with a plan to expand the reach and speed of broadband in this country. As part of their efforts in this area they are trying to map what is available now around the country. You can test your connection at this site and add that data to what they've already collected. Please do this!

And, let's do a little data collection here. Let me know what your results are and where you're at. Let's see what we can find out about the area. Pass this link along to your friends and have them report here as well.

Here are my results for Amissville in Rappahannock County:

Download speed: 1001 Kbps

Upload speed: 252 Kbps

Latency: 753 ms

Jitter: 85 mps

By the way, if you're looking for definitions of each of these, they're also available on the FCC site.

Looking Deeper at Culpeper June Sales

Jul. 17, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

The Culpeper numbers showed a healthy jump in sales year over year. I've been wondering what made up those numbers and so decided to do some additional analysis.

38 out of those 57 sales were foreclosures. That's two thirds of those sales.

While an increase in sales and a decrease in inventory always qualifies as good news, this probably doesn't warrant throwing a party to celebrate the end of the real estate downturn.

What this means is that two thirds of those homes sold at very steeply discounted prices. Here are a couple of examples:

This home was purchased brand new in October of 2005 for $345,000. It sold in June as a foreclosure for $149,000.

 

 

 

 

 

This home was purchased new in November of 2006 for $448,000. It sold in June as a foreclosure for $230,100.

Those are discounts of 57% and 48%. I analyzed 10 of these foreclosure sales. The average discount from the original sales price was 48.8%.

If your the guy who lives next door and you want to sell your home, how do you compete? Most homeowners can't or won't sell their home for half of what they bought it.

So, yes, it's good news that more homes are selling and inventory is shrinking. If they sell all the foreclosures, there's less downward pressure on pricing.

But right now, if you have to sell, be prepared to price your home very, very aggressively. The competition is based on price and it's vicious!

One quick note, I'll be in the Wildwood Forest subdivision in Amissville this Saturday afternoon from 1 to 3 p.m. If you've got a question on the real estate market in general, your home in particular or just want me to look into my crystal ball, let me know. I'm bringing free cloth shopping bags for everyone I talk to. Give me a call at 540-270-2742 if you'd like to chat while I'm in the neighborhood!

Amissville/Jeffersonton Price Per Square Foot

Jun. 17, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

A recent lunch with a banker friend got me curious about current prices per square foot in specific local subdivisions. Apparently a builder had recently told my friend that he couldn't build a house (including land acquisition costs) for as little as the current price per square foot on existing homes. If you're a builder, that's trouble!

So, I'm going to do a series of posts, not necessarily sequential, looking at several subdivisions in a local area and what the average sale price per square foot looks like.

First I should define a few things. I'm looking at specific subdivisions because they are more uniform. It's easier to make comparisons without having to factor out the amount of land. They are usually built at about the same time. All in all, they are more likely to result in more accurate comparisons.

The sale price that I'm using is the sold price as taken from the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) minus any money paid by the seller to help with closing costs. So, it's a net sales price.

The square footage information is taken from the tax records. That means that occasionally the square footage is going to be inaccurate if, say, a homeowner finished the basement without getting the proper permits.

All that said, let's take a look at three subdivisions in the Amissville and Jeffersonton area.

South Wales had the largest volume of sales of the subdivisions I looked at with five sales since 1/1/2008. The average price per square foot of the homes sold is $118.89.

Quail Ridge had four homes sold. The average price per square foot there is $110.50.

Wildwood Forest showed only two homes. That makes the data more suspect here as the two homes had enough differences that I don't view this number as very useful. But, for what it's worth, the price per square foot, on average, was $125.91.

I wanted to look at two additional subdivisions in this area, Deerfield and Erinbrook, but there weren't even two sales in either of these (at least per the MLS).

If you live in the Amissville or Jeffersonton area and have a home for sale, you might consider taking a look at how your home compares with these numbers. Is it time for a price reduction?

If your a buyer, keep these numbers in mind as you look for the house you want, then compare the listing price to these numbers.

Amissville House

Jun. 2, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

It's time to tell another story about a specific local house!

 

This house is located in Amissville in Culpeper county on a quiet country road. As with many local properties, it was once part of a larger farm. And, in fact, one of the things I love about this house is the old farmhouse that is at its core.

It's been nicely renovated in ways that allow you to still see the original and it's special character. The second floor is all hardwood floors, a very rare thing these days, but fairly common in 1940 when this house was originally built. It sits on just under 2 acres with some nice fencing.

There are 4 bedrooms and 2 full baths. The kitchen is modern and large with lots of light. It's got that great front porch and some beautiful mature trees. In short, there's lots to love about this house.

For horse people, there's adjoining pasture that rents pretty cheaply. ($200/mo.)

The house sold in December, 2004 for $314,000 with a $9000 subsidy to the buyers to help with closing costs. It was on the market for 127 days before selling. In 2004, that was actually a long time. And, at that point in time the $9000 help for the buyers was also unusual.

It next sold in May of 2007. This time it was on the market for 292 days before being sold for $360,000.

It's back up for sale now. It's been for sale for 86 days. It was originally listed at $349,900 and is currently listed at $299,900. It's a short sale this time around, meaning that the owners owe more to the bank than the home will sell for. The possibility of foreclosure looms if the property does not sell.

If the home sells for full price (unlikely in this market) it will be 17% off the highest sales price. That's a little less than the price declines we've seen overall in Culpeper County.

I believe, overall, this home is a pretty good value in this market. Part of why it's lingering at this price is the fact that it's a short sale. Real estate agents are reluctant to show short sale properties. There are a number of reasons for this, including a lengthy/complex process that frustrates their clients and usually produces a smaller paycheck for them.

It may also be sitting because of the new home that's being built nearby. While there's enough distance between them that it's not intrusive if you're a city person; people moving out here often want no sign that neighbors even exist!

Still, for someone with horses and not a big house hunting budget, I think this has a lot of appeal.

Surrounding sellers will no doubt be unhappy with the low price on this. If this sells for under $300K, and it ultimately will, many surrounding properties are clearly overpriced. Or, at least, that's what potential buyers and appraisers are likely to think!

Cinnamon Ridge

Apr. 25, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

There are those people who believe you have to give up your dreams to make a living. Kathi Fillmore is definitely not one of those people! Following her dreams of a life working with horses has worked out just fine!

 

You’ll find Kathi, these days, at her new farm, Cinnamon Ridge, right here in Amissville. It’s the latest home for the business of horses, her passion. Kathi was in love with horses from the time she was three years old and got her first cowgirl outfit. Back in those days a horse of her own was out of the question. As part of a military family she moved around the country and a horse was not part of the allowed household items! But when she was about 11 the family settled in Virginia and it didn’t take long before she had her first horse, a blind pony that was given to her.

 

Kathi soon learned to ride and stayed involved with horses all through high school. But her practical family and friends advised her that she couldn’t possibly make a living in the horse business and that she needed a more sensible major. So she got a degree in business management and accounting. Three years in the business world and she knew that for her at least, it was no way to live.

 

She bought her first farm when she was 24 years old. And horses have been an essential part of both her business and personal life ever since. She’s downsized a couple of times as she fought her way through health concerns including a benign tumor on her spine as well as a bout with Lyme Disease. At one time she had 100 acres and 100 horses. Her 12 acres here on South Poes Road and her 7 horses now seem just right!

 

Cinnamon Ridge is home to a series of VHSA and BHSA horse shows. And, while the shows are fun, Kathi’s real love is teaching. She gives lessons in hunters and hunter equitation. “I make it fun!” she says as she tells me about the games mixed in with the classes. And she must be doing something right as many of her students have gone on to become horse professionals themselves.

 

But teaching and the horse shows is only part of what Kathi’s doing these days. She boards horses, although only a few at a time. She breeds Welsh ponies. She still judges horse shows. Believe it or not, from Kathi’s perspective this is semi-retirement! Clearly none of those earlier health challenges was going to keep her down for long!

 

Kathi took some time to show me around Cinnamon Ridge including the show ring, the 4 stall horse barn that includes a wash stall and an office. And, of course, no visit to the farm would be complete without the chance to meet some of the four legged residents. Joey is her 4 year old Welsh Pony stallion. And she expects the first foals from him next year to be something very special. Katie is her personal horse and a real sweetheart! Actually, I enjoyed meeting everyone on the farm down to the smallest residents, the cat and dog!


Kathi is a confessed workaholic who says she’s mended her ways. Having seen everything going on at Cinnamon Ridge, I’m not so sure about that. But I do know it’s going to be a lot of fun having her in the neighborhood!

Christmas Company

Apr. 25, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

Tis the season for family and friends to come visiting! While there’s none of that to report at our house, there seems to be plenty of company coming elsewhere in the neighborhood!

 

Don and Valerie Jones of Amissville welcomed their daughter Camilla Anne Jones Corn and her husband, John Wing Corn from San Diego. Camilla and John are newlyweds and were back to celebrate an early Christmas on the 21st here in Amissville. They were joined by the Jones’ daughter, Courtney, who currently lives in Midland and her husband Patrick and their children. They all enjoyed a sumptuous buffet and 8 kinds of cookies baked by Valerie. Camilla and John then headed by car down to Murfreesboro, TN to celebrate Christmas again with more family there.

 

Roy & Myrtle Jenkins were glad to have their son Jeff, his wife, Pat and their two boys home for Christmas. Jeff and his family live in Ohio and make it back here for most major holidays. The Jenkins two other children, Bev and Terry, and their families live nearby and were also on hand to celebrate the holidays. Myrtle even baked her special chocolate cake for the occasion! Rumor has it she may be saving me a piece!

 

With Christmas already behind us, most of us are already thinking ahead to 2007 and what the next year will bring. I’d love to predict here that it will bring peace on earth, but I don’t see much evidence to support that. So, I thought I’d focus on what the New Year will bring closer to home. I’ve been asking people what changes 2007 will bring in their lives.

 

Mike Suess initially told me his life was “awfully good just the way it is.” But upon further reflection he decided 2007 will be the year that he’s able to get two cars in his garage. I’m guessing Mike’s not the only one with that on his agenda this year!

 

Hazel Zinn-Day was excited to tell me that 2007 will make her a great aunt twice! Hazel is the niece of Dorothy Hackley and the cousin of Brad Nicholas who runs Hackley’s store. It’s nice to see their family continue to grow. Maybe one of these babies will be the next generation of those keeping Hackley’s alive and thriving here in Amissville!

 

Kit Johnston from Madison went out of her way to tell me that 2007 will bring more time for her and her border collie at Mountain View Training Center in Amissville. She raved about the work that Averil and Ken Ring do there. I hope to feature more on this local business in a future column so stay tuned!

 

There were a few people who were happy to tell me about plans for 2007 anonymously! Here are some of their contributions:

 

“I’ll be joining the new Weight Watchers group in Rappahannock County.”

 

“Christmas in 2007 will definitely be less crazy at our house! Enough already!”

 

“I’m going to get more involved in my community.”

 

“My kids will do their homework immediately after school if I have to tie them to their chairs!”

 

As for us here, our 2007 will hopefully bring no snakebites, a great garden, more time for family and friends and a continuing column about Amissville! Happy New Year!

Change Comes to Amissville

Apr. 11, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

I’m not a person who dislikes change. In fact, I seem genetically predisposed to shaking up my life in some fashion about every five years. (Watch out this year everybody!)

 

But I’ll admit that, like most people, I’m always more comfortable with change I choose than with change forced upon me from the outside. And lately it seems like there is a lot of that going on.

 

Sometimes it’s the little things. I don’t how it looks from the front porch of your house, but at ours there is a definite shortage of hummingbirds! It seems that every year like clockwork they show up, looking for food. And we had our first couple, right on schedule. But within about a month, we have dozens of the tiny beauties sucking up that nectar about as fast as we can make it! This year we’ve got our two, but no more. Is this true around Amissville? Is this the case around Rappahannock County? If so, what could be causing this? And, most importantly, how do we fix this? I like it just fine the way it worked in the past!

 

Sometimes it’s more personal. It seems every so often I am inundated with news of friends divorcing. And it once again seems to be that season. I’m not self-centered enough to think any of this is really about me. Change is being thrust upon the family involved, not me. But the truth is there is a ripple of change that goes out from a family that’s breaking apart. It affects many of the people who love them. And there’s a great sadness for a lot of us as we watch and try as best we can to help them through this change.

 

And then there’s the change in our communities. If you look at surrounding counties you can’t really say that Rappahannock County is experiencing unprecedented growth! And thank goodness for that! And, yet, in my little corner of Amissville it feels like new houses are going up right and left. I’m not saying that they won’t be perfectly nice houses. I’m not saying that the people who eventually move into them won’t be wonderful neighbors. But the truth is that change is being forced upon me again and I’m not pleased about that!

 

Of course, the biggest change of all, for many of us is the prospect of Dominion’s expanded power lines. As I drive through this gorgeous countryside I begin to imagine what it will look like if Dominion wins this fight. And I’m saddened by what seems like more awful change being forced on a lot of people in these parts.

 

But there’s plenty of good change around as well! There are new babies, new marriages, new jobs and new homes. There are new neighbors in our communities. And nature is constantly forcing change on all of us. But I never seem to mind when spring gives way to summer. While the storms this year have taken down some old pine trees, I see new seedlings everywhere I look. Some of them will eventually be huge trees. I think this week I’ll look to nature for some lessons on gratefully accepting the changes around me!

 

I still like the serenity prayer that Al-Anon uses. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Here’s to a wise week for all of us!

Amissville Carnival

Apr. 11, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

I love watching the faces of the three-year-olds at the carnival. They’re on the slowest ride in the place and you’d think it was the most thrilling thing on earth. They grin from ear to ear! I saw plenty of them this week at the Amissville Fireman’s Carnival. Watching them was entertainment in and of itself!

 

I still grin like an idiot riding on the Octopus. I’ve loved carnival rides all my life! The more spinning the better! You’d think a grown person would have gotten beyond that. Not me.

 

Part of that three-year-old grin is the still innate belief that you’re indestructible. Typically that lasts through your teenage years and maybe into your 20s. For me, it lasted a lot longer. I think I still only half believe that the “no one gets out of this alive” quote includes me. Blame it on my parents. Heaven knows they knew plenty of economic fear. But there never seemed to be a fear of trying new things, of embarking on adventures or throwing yourself wholeheartedly into any endeavor. I hope the same is true for the next generation!

 

So carnival rides were always a thrill. But there came a day when something changed. And while part of it may have been a realization of my own mortality; a bigger part was a realization that I was riding on a machine and they break all the time! It was probably after I bought my first, very old, car, and was responsible for maintaining something mechanical. Now that I’ve also owned houses and, heaven help me, lawnmowers, it’s a wonder I’m not terrified of all mechanical things!

 

This was really brought home to me about ten years ago when I was on that ride that’s basically a roller coaster in the form of a loop. And at some point they leave you at the top of the loop, suspended upside down. They leave you up there for a really, really long time! This is when you start to notice the rust on the bolts and the creaking of aging machinery. And have I mentioned that the seat belt in my car holds me in more firmly than that single bar across my middle?  Why is it that you need two straps across your body, horizontally and diagonally, in a car that’s meant to stay right side up on the ground, but suspended hundreds of feet above the ground, upside down I only needed that dinky little bar?! And where’s my airbag? Suddenly I was sure I was going to die an untimely and terrifying death!

 

Obviously, I made it down off that ride. And it didn’t cure me of rides, although it did cure me of that particular ride! And as I get a little older and I realize I am here on earth for a finite amount of time, carnival rides once again seem like a good thing. After all, I might as well have fun in the time I’ve got!

 

If you missed all the fun at this week’s fireman’s carnival, there are more coming up, around Rappahannock county and the larger area. You can live dangerously by eating the cotton candy and rotting your teeth out. You can lose your retirement money at the carnival games. Or you can get on that upside down roller coaster thing! If you’re looking for me I’ll be the grinning idiot on the Octopus!

Bottom Sledding

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

The safest way to navigate around our property seems to be to sit down and push yourself along. I’ve become quite good at this new means of transportation and am feeling quite proud of my skills. That, of course, means it’s probably only a matter of time until I make a fool of myself! Meanwhile, do you think they’d consider adding a new Olympic event, Bottom Sledding?

 

The “Ice That Will Not Leave” has caused the same inconveniences here that the rest of you are putting up with as well. I parked at the top of a client’s driveway this week, put on the parking brake and was just about to exit the car when it began sliding backwards! Not being a complete idiot I decided that I’d drive back down and park on the road. That then left me with the task of walking back up the completely untouched driveway on shoes designed to impress business clients, not navigate icy terrain. Incredibly, I made it to the top without incident. I suggested to my clients that perhaps I should try “bottom sledding” to my car, but they appeared to believe I was joking. So, trying to maintain my dignity I picked my way back down (OK, skated in a completely undignified fashion!)

 

But the most interesting and challenging part of the ice storm has been some self-inflicted pain. We left ordering the next refill of heating oil a little longer than we should. And, consequently, the oil truck is now unable to navigate our driveway. If we hadn’t also happened to have now run out of oil it wouldn’t be a big deal. But we’ve reverted to a more pioneer lifestyle with the wood stove and fireplace now being our only sources of heat! There have been some other adjustments in our lifestyle as well. Our basement is now toasty warm and we’ve temporarily moved into the guest bedroom down there. The animals are a little curious as to the new arrangements but they’ve adjusted. I refuse to cook in my cold kitchen since the food becomes cold before you can get the fork to your mouth. So we’ve been eating frozen dinners and canned soups that don’t require much in the way of preparation. The first few days of this seems like an adventure. And by the time you read this no doubt the mid-week thaw will mean we have heat again. Meanwhile, it turns out that yesterday’s adventure quickly becomes today’s inconvenience!

 

And the other adventure that begins for all of us now is fighting the relocation of the Dominion Power line through Rappahannock County. I just hate being considered easy prey! It also seems to me all of us should be asking ourselves what we can do to conserve energy. While Dominion is certainly not running these lines through Rappahannock to serve our increasing needs for power, there’s clearly a case to be made that the more all of us in this country conserve, the less need there will be for these monstrosities to be built in anyone’s back yard!

 

And I received this from Peter and Valerie Little this week via e-mail:

 

Anyway - through your column could we yet again thank a veritable Amissville Snow Angel - who anonymously clears our driveway for us 

when the going gets rough.   This has happened before (we have one of 

those long, twisty Rappahannock drives with a gradient) and a snowfall does not make it very easy for us. Sometimes even 4-wheel driving does not cut it very comfortably or safely.

 

Once again this week our driveway was cleared - and, though one of us was at home, no-one was seen making this friendly and outright neighborly gesture. Can we thank who ever this was through your column? We live on Seven Ponds Road, and again, this sort of thing reiterates our road as being one of the best in Rappahannock County for neighborliness !!

 

 

I’d like to ask your help as I continue to try and profile some of our local businesses here in Amissville. If you have a local business and would like to be featured in these pages, please e-mail me or give me a call. I have to say it’s a lot of fun learning about all the local businesses!

 

And, if you’re in need of bottom sledding lessons, don’t forget to give me a call. You can start practicing by carrying oil drums in your lap and scooting up our driveway!

Bingo Night in Amissville

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

Where do you go for a good time in Amissville on Monday night? You go to the Amissville Volunteer Fire Department, of course, to play some bingo!

 

The regular Monday night bingo games have been on our “to do” list here for almost as long as we’ve lived here. We finally took the plunge this past Monday night. We definitely waited too long!

 

Bingo has been going on at the fire department here for about 25 years. Amissville’s fire department was among the first to try this as a fund raiser. It’s spread far and wide now and some localities have enormous crowds, although it’s hard to imagine a friendlier crowd than the one here!

 

On an average night there are probably around 3 dozen players. This Monday proved to be pretty average. Prizes range from a few dollars to potentially as much as $1,000.

 

Bingo starts promptly at 6:45 and it definitely pays to be on time. We arrived almost exactly at 6:45. But we didn’t know we needed to allow time to buy the bingo cards and, of course, get instructions.

 

Now, I know you’re all thinking that we must be idiots! How much do you need to know to play bingo? Well, you’d be surprised! They had about 28 games Monday night and there was quite a variety. I had no idea there were that many ways to play bingo. And after seeing this I’m guessing we didn’t even scratch the surface!

The evening included games such as “Crazy Ts” and “2 Postage Stamps” that I’d certainly never heard of. I thought of bingo as being about getting a row across, down or diagonally. Apparently I’m way behind the times when it comes to bingo innovation!

 

Fortunately, we were directed to sit next to a very helpful group. These six women live in Wildwood Forest in Amissville and have been playing bingo together on Monday nights for two years. They were very generous with their time and expertise and were happy to share their secrets to managing all those cards efficiently.

 

It was not only our ignorance of the variety of games that gave away our inexperience. Clearly there are some bingo pros here. They bring special stands to hold their myriad cards. They bring big bags of bingo supplies. And, fortunately for us, they bring food to share! The Fire Department sells hot dogs and other assorted items. But there’s also plenty of friendly sharing going on and we were offered chocolates and mints. And on other tables I saw cake and cookies and other treats being shared.

 

We found six cards at a time enough to manage. But some of the bingo regulars are watching anywhere from 18 to 24 cards. I think I’d need some additional practice to pull that off!

 

By the end of the evening we were starting to feel comfortable with all the varieties of games, happy about the new friends we’d made and even happier about our bingo winnings!

 

If you haven’t checked out the bingo games for yourself, set aside a Monday night and bring some friends! Or better yet, plan to meet your neighbors and make some new friends!

 

GET YOUR UMBRELLAS BEFORE SPRING SHOWERS COME

 

The Rappahannock County Sophomore Class, class of 2009, are selling Panther Golf Umbrellas.The wet weather will soon be upon the folks of Rappahannock and now is the season to purchase one or two (perhaps a gift for a friend in need). These durable, large, blue and gold golf umbrellas are currently on sale for $20 each at several locations that include Rappahannock Elementary School (987-8259), Rappahannock High School (987-8575) or Farmers' Co-op. Please assist the Class of 2009 by purchasing a sturdy umbrella. Stop by or call one of the mentioned locations.

 

GRAY GHOST WINS ANOTHER AWARD           

 

Adieu, a dessert wine from Gray Ghost Vineyards here in Amissville, has won another award. It was the only Virginia wine to win Gold in California’s prestigious Grand Harvest Awards held at the end of February. Adieu had also won a bronze at the Florida State Fair international Wine Competition. If you’d like to taste this fine wine for yourself, stop by Gray Ghost during the month of March for free samplings. They’re located at 14706 Lee Highway, Amissville and can be reached at 937-4869.

Acorns

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

The deer have been busy around here vacuuming up every acorn they can find. That, of course, has gotten me thinking and wondering. I don’t believe I’ve ever known any people to eat acorns. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a recipe that includes acorns. And, yet, they would seem such a plentiful food source. So, always on the look for free and local foods I began to wonder if they were edible. (After all, I grew up with Euell Gibbons telling me “Some pine trees are edible.”) I thought perhaps they just had a flavor that was very unappetizing. Then we went to the Zoo in DC this weekend and there was an informational plaque telling me that acorns are actually poisonous to human beings. That got me curious.

 

And it turns out it’s not quite that simple. Acorns were apparently a major food source for some native Americans. While it’s true that acorns have tannins in them that are, at the very least, unpleasant tasting and at the worst, harmful, those tannins can be leached from the acorns. Some animals, such as squirrels do this naturally. They hide the nuts and over time the water washes over them and leaches out those tannins. By the time the squirrel finds its stash, no more problem! Other animals such as deer seem to not be affected by the tannins.

 

Horses, on the other hand, are more like humans apparently. Acorns are definitely toxic to horses. Their stomachs simply can’t deal with the tannins.

 

How much tannin is in an acorn is dependent on the type of oak. While I can’t attest as to which varieties of local oaks might produce the tastiest acorns, apparently the Black Oak was a favorite of some California tribes for it’s supposedly sweeter flavor. I’m sure there’s an ongoing argument amongst acorn connoisseurs!

 

I was able to find descriptions of how you’d go about leaching the tannins from the acorns in order to make them edible. You actually turn the acorns into a meal and then leach the tannins from it. While I had no trouble finding recipes to go with all this, I have to confess that it sounds like more work than I’m likely to take on. Besides, the deer look pretty hungry around here. I don’t think they really need to compete with me for the meager food supply available to them.

 

Jen Copperthite of Amissville recently became a Tastefully Simple consultant. If you aren’t familiar with the company or their products, they sell great tasting, easy to make foods designed to help people with busy life styles still eat great food. I’ve tasted their pumpkin muffins and they are very tasty! If you’re interested in finding out more about Tastefully Simple foods you can reach Jen at 937-2483.

 

If you’ve just started a business here in Amissville, I’d be happy to let everyone know about it! Please give me a call on 937-2315 or e-mail me at Julie@JulieEmery.com with your information.

 

Susan Grigsby would like to send birthday greetings to her husband, Rick. His birthday was on October 17th. Happy Birthday, Rick!

Spring Foraging

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

At my house we’re ignoring the weather and pretending it’s spring! “Faith is evidence of things hoped for…” and we are definitely, eternally hopeful!

 

So, in one act of faith this week I put up the first hummingbird feeder. I haven’t seen any of them yet, but a web site that tracks sightings of the birds says they are in our neck of the woods already. In looking for information on when to expect them I also learned that the nectar we give them isn’t their main source of food. They’re actually carnivores and just use the nectar as fuel to help them catch and eat flies. Now that I know they eat flies they’re doubly welcome here! I wonder if it’s possible to get them to expand their diet to include mosquitoes? These little things fly about 20 miles a day on their way back up here. And the small amount of research that’s been done so far leads them to believe that the same birds return to the same place to eat every year. That may explain why my neighbor who’s lived here 30 years always has more birds than I do!

 

Like most of you we’re outside more with the longer days and so we’re noticing more of the natural world around us. The wild onion crop seemed larger than usual this year and I got curious about this plant. When we first moved here my mother gave dire warnings about what would happen if we even thought of eating the wild onions. And, so we haven’t. But I like to use what’s around me and fresh for cooking and it’s always bothered me that there seemed to be this possible food source there that I wasn’t making use of. So I finally started doing some research. It turns out that these aren’t wild onions, but wild garlic. They look much the same, but the stems on the garlic are hollow and the onions are solid. That definitely makes ours garlic. And, both plants are edible. Although most references I looked at did warn that the taste is definitely more intense and perhaps less pleasant than our domesticated variety. But I’m definitely going to try some for flavoring in some of my cooking this week.

 

And as long as we’re talking onions, I learned from the extension service this year why I never got the results from my garden onions I was hoping for. Apparently Virginia is not a great place to grow onions. There are onions designed for a very short growing season like the one I grew up with in Minnesota. There are onions designed for very long growing seasons. Think of Vidalia Onions from Georgia. But apparently there are almost no onions designed for a middle of the road kind of growing season like the one we have here in Virginia. While we get great spring onions from our garden, I could never seem to grow big keeper onions for the winter. It is nice to know it’s not my lack of gardening expertise!

 

The wild strawberries here also intrigue me. I don’t remember ever seeing them at home in Minnesota. But that may be because we grew so many of the domesticated variety I never noticed them. They are also edible and are supposed to have a stronger flavor than the humongous ones you see in the grocery store. Of course, they’re so tiny they’d need to have a pretty intense flavor. And did you know that during the American Revolution, the Minutemen were saved from scurvy by drinking tea made from the green leaves of the wild strawberry? And Indians ate wild strawberries to help them get over colds. Seems like a handy plant to have around!

 

And last but not least are the beautiful wild violets that grow in profusion in our ditches out front. Every resource I looked at referred to these as a noxious weed. That seems very harsh to me considering how pretty they are! But I will have to admit they seem to be spreading. Since I did find a note that the leaves can be boiled to make a tea and that the leaves can be used in salads maybe I can turn them into a useful crop! By the way, did you know that the leaves and flowers of the wild violet have three times the vitamin C of an orange.

 

What are you waiting for? Get out there and start foraging?

Delaney Restorations

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

Nancy Delaney doesn’t live in our world of automatic this and instant that. She lives in a place where electricity isn’t needed. It’s a world where craftsmanship is one person with great skill and training working meticulously on one item at a time. And I was fortunate enough to visit Nancy’s world this week!

 

Nancy is the force behind Delaney Restorations, LLC located right here in Amissville. And you’d never guess that inside this modern home was an operation that is much like one you would have seen a couple of hundred years ago.

 

Delaney Restorations does hand bookbinding and restorations. She restores books such as generations-old family bibles. But she’ll also hand bind new materials. Say you’ve stumbled upon letters your great grandparents wrote each other over a 20 year period. Bring them to Nancy and have them bound in something special that treats them like the heirloom they are.

 

The work Nancy does is not easily learned. While Nancy knew she wanted to do this when she was still in high school, she found it impossible to find a school that taught these techniques. So, she went to college and tried to take the courses that she thought would be most useful. She majored in art history and had enough course work in English literature to get a minor. She’s since added general and organic chemistry courses. After college, still unable to find a school to train her in these techniques, she elected to apprentice with a woman in Winchester who was the sole practitioner of this craft in the commonwealth of Virginia.  She spent five years as an apprentice and another five years there gaining additional experience before she decided she was ready to go out on her own.

 

Nancy was gracious enough to show me around her workshop and explain the process to me. It was fascinating to see that most of the tools she uses are from another century! I loved looking at the loom used for hand sewing the pages together. And the backer used to make the rounded spine on the books is an amazing tool that looks every bit of it’s 200 years!

 

Some of the people who find their way to Nancy with their books don’t fully understand that this is a very manual process. “They ask if they can pick up the book the next day,” she says laughing! “They think there’s a machine and I put the book in one end and the finished product comes out the other end!” But we’re talking hand-sewn pages, hand-glued leather and cloth and even a hand-operated titler. This is a tool that imprints the title on the cover of the book. It’s done with old fashioned type and is imprinted in the book one letter at a time! It really is amazing that anyone devotes this kind of time and attention to anything these days!

 

The finished product is a work of art to be cherished and each one is unique. I was lucky enough to get to see a family Bible from a local Amissville client. She showed me the before picture and it’s truly amazing that it’s been put back together! She also has a photo album showing the process of restoring a family Bible that had been almost destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. The before process definitely looks like something unsalvageable! But Nancy was able to bring it back and the final pictures are of a family treasure restored.


Nancy’s business comes from book dealers, antique dealers, her web site and word of mouth. Right now she does about 10 books per month, but could handle slightly higher volumes. I think once word gets out about what she does she’ll have more work than she can handle! This is a dying craft with only two people in all of Virginia who do this work.

 

If you’d like to find more about Nancy and her work you can go to her web site at http://www.delaneyrestorations.com or give her a call at 937-2980. I off to have a look at my family’s stash of old books!

Air Serv

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

You meet the most interesting people in Amissville! I had the pleasure last week of sitting down with Ruth Zeh over a cup of coffee. Ruth has lived here in Amissville for four years. She’s a lifelong resident of the area and she and her husband were thrilled when they had the opportunity to move to Rappahannock county.

But the most interesting part of my conversation with Ruth was about her job. Ruth works for Air Serv International at their world headquarters in Warrenton. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the company, they are a nonprofit organization providing air services for humanitarian work around the world. They say that they fly where others can’t or won’t. They operate in places like Chad and Afghanistan. They were a big part of tsunami relief; where they ended up using mostly helicopters.

Ruth is the Information Technology Administrator at the company, making sure the communications infrastructure allows them to communicate with these far flung locations. She didn’t start out in the technology field. She started by answering an ad in the paper for a receptionist. But over the years her responsibilities have grown. And, it turned out, she had a knack for working with computers. So now she’s taking care of computer networks and e-mail. There are unique problems in this area because of the places Air Serv goes. She’s had company personnel calling back to the office from the top of a tree in Chad because it was the only place they could get a signal. Keeping e-mail flowing back and forth between Warrenton and the locations in the Middle East and Africa where they work most frequently is a huge challenge.

With exciting opportunities like that it’s not wonder that Ruth says she loves her job. “What’s best about it is that it’s exciting, interesting and humanitarian”, she said. She’s happiest when she’s been able to help someone out in the field to do their job by helping them through computer problems.

The company got started out in California and moved to Warrenton about eight years ago. Since much of their work is coordinated with NGOs and government agencies, being close to Washington, DC made a lot of sense. The story goes that when they were trying to decide exactly where to put the headquarters they flew into Dulles, started driving around the area and fell in love with the Warrenton area.

The company is a non-profit and like all non-profits, obtaining funding can be a challenge. Fed Ex is a big supporter but they’re just one organization. Air Serv depends on both organizations and individuals for their support. According to their web site http://www.airserv.org donations can be made to the General Fund, the Disaster Response Fund for specific emergencies, the Equipment Fund which allows them to buy, replace and repair equipment or the New Initiatives Fund.

Ruth is working to improve her skills and better help the organization. She’s hard at work on her Microsoft certification. I asked her if she ever had any desire to go out in the field. She laughed and said there are days she’d love to have that experience and others she’s happy to be safe and secure in Rappahannock! We’re glad she’s here too!

If romance is on your mind as we get closer to Valentine’s Day, think about heading over to Gray Ghost Vineyards for their Annual Irresistible Chocolates and Cabernet event on February 16th and 17th. There will be decadent desserts such as passion truffles and chocolate dipped apricots and, of course, tastings from Gray Ghost’s own gold-medal winning red wines. Tickets are $15 and include a collectible Valentines glass.

And we wanted to mention that Elizabeth Streagle is home following surgical replacement of both knees.  She appreciated and enjoyed the many visits from friends and neighbors while she was hospitalized and in rehab. Welcome home, Elizabeth!

Introductory Column

Apr. 9, 2008
Categorized in: Amissville Columns

Welcome to my first column of Amissville news! My name is Julie Emery and I’ve lived in beautiful Rappahannock County about four and a half years now. It’s the most beautiful place we’ve ever lived. Of course, two of the other places we’ve lived were Kansas and New Jersey, so you have an edge!

 

I was raised on a dairy farm in the Midwest and it’s been a joy to return to a rural area. Our most recent home before Amissville was Miami, Florida. While it was a wonderful place to live, there was nothing rural about it. And hurricane seasons are a lot more fun in Rappahannock County!  But the best part about moving here has been the wonderful friends and neighbors who surround us! I’ve found the people here to be kind, generous and definitely very interesting! And that’s the real reason I’m so excited about the chance to write this column! While I’ve had the opportunity to meet many of you, I already know this will give me the chance to meet a lot more of you and hear your stories!

 

All of you are now my eyes and ears. I’ll look forward to hearing from you about what local activities are coming up here in Amissville. I love a good story and I can’t wait to hear what amazing exploits you’ve engaged in, what prizes you’ve won and who our newest neighbors are.

 

You can get in touch with me by phone at 540-937-2315 or via e-mail at Julie@JulieEmery.com I’m eagerly awaiting your contributions!

A House in Amissville

Mar. 18, 2008
Categorized in: Local Market Conditions

We're going to dive down to ground level today to take a look at the history of one house that recently sold in Amissville.

43 Forgotten Creek, Amissville

This home sold on December 27, 2007 after 574 days on the market.

This is a lovely home. I know because I showed it to several potential buyers. It sits in Rappahannock County on 51 acres with a pond. As someone who loves to cook, I can tell you that the kitchen is amazing! It has 5 bedrooms and 4 1/2 baths and a fully finished basement.

There is also a detached 3-car garage/shop with an apartment.

This home was built by a builder for his own family in 2000.

The home was listed for sale on May 4, 2006 for $2,275,000. The price was dropped three times. The final price drop was in November of 2007 when the price went to $995,000.

The final sales price was $850,000. That's 37% of it's original sales price. It's 85% of the final listing price. Any way you look a this, it's an incredible deal!

To give you a frame of reference, there are currently four parcels of land of approximately the same size for sale in Rappahannock County. The prices range from $599,000 to $1,348,500. This is for unimproved land!

This could create problems for future sales if it's used as a comparable. Rappahannock has been a little more sheltered from dramatic price declines. At least for the higher end properties, that may no longer be true.

It's also interesting to note that the buyer paid cash for the property.

There are some bargains out there! And cash provides a lot of negotiating leverage.

Wildwood Forest

Oct. 31, 2007
Categorized in: Culpeper County
Wildwood Forest is a lovely community in Amissville in northwest Culpeper County. It is located approximately nine miles west of Warrenton. There are approximately 90 homes in this subdivision.


One of the distinctive things you'll find here are the hand-painted mailboxes. Every home has one and it really does add to the ambience of the community.

Wildwood Circle is the main street and is, of course, a circle. The other streets in the subdivision are spurs off this main street.

Most of the homes here are colonials, although you'll also find a sprinkling of cape cods and ramblers. All are on large lots, generally over 1.5 acres.


There is no HOA in Wildwood Forest. Although there are restrictive covenants.

Piedmont Real Estate Blog

Blog by Julie Emery
Amissville, Virginia

An ongoing dialog on real estate news, opinion and trends in Northern Virginia and the greater Piedmont area. Julie is an Associate Broker at Frankly Real Estate Inc, 6304 Crossroads Circle, Ste 102, Falls Church, VA 22044

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